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Jared Lortie has already faced a lot of traffic on the basepaths in his first month as a varsity pitcher for Evanston’s baseball team.
But the Evanston junior is learning how to put his mistakes behind him, one batter at a time.
The right-hander turned in his best performance of the spring Monday at Northwestern University, limiting Maine West to just one earned run in five-plus innings as the Wildkits scored a 10-2 triumph over the Warriors in a Central Suburban League crossover game.
Evanston, now 9-2 overall, registered its sixth straight victory leading into a key home and home series against New Trier this week. The Wildkits are at New Trier on Tuesday and will host the Trevians on Thursday, with the continuation of a suspended game against Highland Park sandwiched in between those two contests.
Lortie’s pitching line on a frigid Monday – lake effect snowflakes were visible at the start – won’t have anyone lining up to add him to a fantasy baseball roster. He didn’t have a single “clean” (1-2-3) inning, and scattered six hits and four walks while striking out four. He also hit a batter before being relieved by Eron Vega with one out in the sixth inning.
Still, he scored his second varsity win on the mound by commanding his plus fastball and his off-speed pitches on a consistent basis for the first time this spring.
“Jared’s taken a step now. He did some really good things today,” said Evanston head coach Frank Consiglio. “In games before this one, when things went south for him, they seemed to really go south. And things could have gone in the wrong direction for him today, too, but they didn’t.
“He’s starting to understand that next-pitch mentality, that you’re really always just one pitch away from getting out of trouble. He’s shown he can go to his off-speed pitch and get a strike when he needs it, and he did a really good job of mixing up his pitches today.”
Bad weather has prevented the Wildkits from playing since last Wednesday and Lortie used that time between starts to work on the mental part of his pitching game.
“My command was definitely better today for my fastball, my slider and my curve,” Lortie said. “My technique was better and I wasn’t opening up too early. I’ve also worked on the mental side. I’ve been watching affirmation videos every night because I’d walk a guy, get down on myself and I couldn’t focus on getting the next guy. Things would just get worse.
“Today I was focused on every pitch, no matter what happened. It’s definitely more nerve-wracking in my first year on the varsity. But I’ve been pitching since I was in third grade and I’m used to high pressure. I think I’m ready to pitch against the New Triers and the Maine Souths.”
Brandon Brokowski’s first inning double provided Lortie with a 1-0 advantage and Alex Vasquez added an RBI single in the third. The Warriors (4-4 overall, 0-2 conference) cut that lead in half in their half of the third when Josh Outlaw rapped a one-out single, took second on a wild pitch and crossed on a single by cleanup hitter John Rings.
Lortie almost pitched out of a jam in the fourth. But with two outs and two runners aboard, sophomore second baseman Charlie Kalil muffed a line drive hit to the right side of the infield and West pulled even at 2-2.
Evanston regained the lead in the fifth when Ben Gutowski drew a leadoff walk – one of nine issued by Maine West’s hurlers – and came around to score after a walk to Vasquez, an infield out, and a tapper to shortstop hit by Vega that also produced a subsequent throwing error.
West’s defense collapsed in the sixth inning. Three straight errors to start the inning set up another Brokowski double, this one on a hit-and-run grounder through the shortstop hole for a two-out RBI. Vega followed with a triple down the right field line to build the lead to 8-2 in Evanston’s favor.
In the seventh, a walk and a dropped third strike, combined with Alex Van Durman’s infield hit and singles by Gutowski and Vasquez, produced a couple of insurance runs and continued Evanston’s penchant for dominating games after the fourth inning this spring. “We outscored them 8-0 after the fourth,” Consiglio pointed out. “Our kids all know them as the big boy innings and that’s been the consistent message we’ve tried to get across in the program. We want to be hard to compete with for seven innings every game. If we get to those innings and compete, we like our chances.”